Montana has rich history of prehistoric creatures to uncover
Montana’s rugged landscape is a veritable treasure trove of dinosaur fossils. To share this unique feature, the Montana Dinosaur Trail brings this ancient time to life with fascinating exhibits and field programs.
“There are folks who plan their trip to Montana on how to get their [Montana Dinosaur Trail] passport stamped,” says Victor Bjornberg, tourism development and education coordinator for the Montana Office of Tourism. Families go out of their way to find these world-class exhibits.
Stopping by the museum in Choteau between Memorial Day and Labor Day is a worthwhile diversion while traveling along the Rocky Mountain Front Egg Mountain, a nearby paleontological excavation site, is where the first dinosaur nest in the world was discovered. Since the initial discoveries, multiple species and levels of development have been unearthed.
The Old Trail Museum has a life-sized replica of a Maiasaura (the Montana state dinosaur), as well as a real fossilized thigh bone of a duckbill dinosaur that you can touch. There’s a dinosaur dig exhibit, geology displays and history of the local region giving visitors a deeper appreciation of the area.
823 Main Ave. North
Choteau, MT 59422
Visiting this museum and field station in Malta offers a tremendous opportunity for cutting-edge research. The Montana Dinosaur Festival is the first weekend in June, and they will debut several new exhibits, including the interactive display “The Tiny Mighty World of Micro Fossils.” Sue Frary, director of exhibits and programs says, “More information comes from these fossils than any other fossils.” She says some include throat teeth from prehistoric fish, crocodile scales and tiny reptiles. The Great Plains museum also has field programs to accommodate practically any interest or skill level so visitors can get their hands in the dirt and be part of the research effort.
405 North 1st Ave. East
Malta, MT 59538
Photography courtesy of Great Plains Dinosaur Museum
The Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman features specimens found throughout the region, and is the home base for the paleontology program at Montana State University. The display is never stagnant. “The dinosaur hall is made to change,” says renowned paleontologist and MSU professor Jack Horner. “As we have new data, we change the exhibits.”
Dinosaurs are Horner’s life work and he’s known for significant discoveries, and what we know about them. He says Montana is rich in dinosaur research because the right age of rock is exposed.
In the near future, the museum plans to mount an authentic Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. “There are only three or four skeletons in the world, and we’ll have one here,” Jack says.
600 West Kagy Blvd.
Bozeman, MT 59717
Photography courtesy of Museum of the Rockies
Stop in to see ‘Ava’ if you’re heading to Harlowton. Ava or Avaceratops lammersi was the first of its kind, and it greets visitors to this jam-packed museum.
36 Central Ave. South
Harlowton, MT 59036
This museum in Jordan displays a Triceratops mount, as well as other fossils discovered in the area along the Missouri River. There’s also plenty of interesting history of the hard life on the early plains.
Montana Highway 200
Jordan, MT 59337
Situated in Ekalaka, the heart of exceptional fossil country, Victor says, “The whole reason it got created was because of dinosaurs.” The museum has the complete skull of a Triceratops, full mount of a Hadrosaurus and multiple examples of the sea creatures that once swam above the plains of Montana.
306 N. Main St.
Ekalaka, MT 59324
The ideal “badland” landscape of Montana’s largest state park is where the fossils of multiple species of different dinosaurs were found. While visitors are not permitted to remove fossils, with 11,000 acres to explore, it provides an exceptional opportunity to get to know the type of landscape where fossils they’re located.
1301 Snyder Ave.
Glendive, MT 59330
Located in Glendive, the museum gives you a personal glimpse on what researchers find in the nearby Hell Creek Formation, as well as fossils from around the world. Field trips are also available for budding paleontologists.
104 W. Bell St.
Glendive, MT 59330
Photography courtesy of Makoshika Dinosaur Museum
Located in Bynum, approximately 53 miles from Choteau along Hwy 89, the Two Medicine Dinosaur Center is a place for a hands-on experience, as well as exploring the museum exhibits. An enormous model of a Seismosaurus, one of the largest known dinosaurs, stretches from one end of the building to the other, and the the fossil of an infant Maiasaura from Egg Mountain is on display.
“There’s always something new,” says Cory Coverdell, director of the museum.
He says their most recent projects include potentially new species of a Nadosaur and Daspletosaurus. Visitors can sign up for instruction in field work for three hours or multiple days, providing an experience far different than the typical summer vacation.
120 2nd Ave. S.
Bynum, MT 59422
Situated next to the impressive Fort Peck Dam, visitors walk through the door looking directly into the gaping mouth of Peck’s Rex, a full size Tyrannosaurus display from a skeleton found 20 miles from the location. Besides paleontological exhibits, there is an impressive aquarium, information on local wildlife and the construction of Fort Peck Dam.
Lower Yellowstone Rd.
Fort Peck, MT 59223
Photography courtesy of U.S. Army Corp of Engineers
“Elvis” (named for his perfect pelvis) is a Brachylophosaurus (duckbill dinosaur) that has his home in the museum in Malta, along with an impressive Albertosaurus, a relative of the Tyrannosaurus.
431 U.S. Highway 2
Malta, MT 72342
It’s hard to imagine Montana as an ocean, but the fossilized remains of a Mosasaur and Plesiosaur in the Chinook museum prove the ancient environment was much different than today’s dry prairie. They also have a room where you can hold and examine real fossils.
501 Indiana St.
Chinook, MT 59523
The H. Earl Clack Museum features the skull of a rare Stygimoloch, as well as “Melvin” the baby Hadrosaurus.
1753 U.S. Highway 2
Havre, Mt 59501
Tucked in this small town along what Montanans call the “Hi-Line” on Highway 2 is a tremendous specimen of a Gyrposaurus (a duckbill dinosaur) that was found nearby on the Montana prairie. They also have Maiasaura and Troodons – all “locals” – on display. Besides the dinosaur exhibits, the depot also houses homesteader and military history. It’s well worth the stop.
25 4th Ave. NW
Rudyard, MT 59540
The Montana Dinosaur Trail is a one-of-a-kind experience for those who want to see the fossils up close and learn more about them. Don’t miss this chance to see one or all of them to gain first-hand knowledge of history. Map your adventure at www.mtdinotrail.org.